Human Rights in Ukraine. Website of the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group
23.08.2007 | Yevhen Sverstyuk
Point of view

In Defence of National Dignity


We all carry on our shoulders the immense weight of our colonial and totalitarian past. For more aware individuals this is a cause of sorrow and shame. For some, it is the sweet habit of slavery. Slaves have, after all, from time immemorial, been drawn to idol worship and coercion.

How in the twentieth century they destroyed the monuments to old idols and how they built others to the new leaders while the latter were still alive could be the subject of an interesting study. There were always arguments enough for destroying idols. However for constructing new ones it sufficed to have a few sycophantic and venal voices and nobody would dare to give any balanced arguments. This “democratic” slave tradition – “listening to voices from the masses”, promoted by those “from above” is, unfortunately, still alive. We have not freed ourselves of it.

It’s not difficult to guess who in the twenty first century is trying to muddy the waters; who is clutching at the past and trying to resurrect the ousted idols of the Russian Empire. It is absurd to suggest that anybody even remotely aware of what Catherine the Great was like could want to erect a monument in her honour. It would be enough to buy a statue and put it on your table.

However when you try to speak in our name and resurrect that monstrosity for us, then it’s not generally hard to see a devious purpose – to spread division and discord between people and to quash their yearning to clear away the mire and purify themselves.

It’s enough to gather opinions of her from prominent figures in Russia still in Tsarist times to understand that you won’t resurrect such corpses by democratic means. Only cunning and treachery, as well as disregard for the peoples she harmed, as well as disrespect for the Ukrainian State, prompts those voices, prodded as they are by financial support.

Evil spirits do not only protect the monuments to the organizers of the Bolshevik Terror and Holodomor [the Famine] of 1932-1933.  They want to obscure the heavens for people with their loathsome symbols of violence, pillaging and dissipation. There are millions of us, ordinary people with normal concepts. Yet they have always been convinced that an organized and well-financed gang can cut into the people’s body like a knife in the back. Then the logic of a fait accompli takes over.

With this letter I am calling on all my fellow citizens to self-purification.  I mean by this not polluting our own environment, and not poisoning the atmosphere for others with putrid fumes.

A lot of people in Ukraine and in the West are musing over the inadequacy of our political elite who in our rich Ukraine could achieve such poverty for its people. However not many consider looking to see what various persecutors – Party members, and now “builders of the State” – are up to. Their destructive way of thinking has not changed. They can’t deport the Crimean Tatars again, yet they are not capable of thinking about how to return people their freedom.  Heads like theirs can only come up with limited ideas for placing a loathed symbol above people’s heads instead of building a device for turning solar energy into electricity.

If you can’t love your neighbour, then at least don’t harm him with violence, ill deeds and foul language. The environment is either good for us all, or harmful for us all. As a rule it is those who harm the environment who are first poisoned. And it doesn’t happen that a fiend reaps good crops. Put your statues of tsars on the table, play your crass music through your headphones, but don’t shame yourselves before people, before the whole world on the squares of our cities. People, have respect for one another!

In a country where there is no monument and not even graves for millions of our people – victims of a State-induced Holodomor, millions of victims of State Terror, slaves erect monuments to the founder of serfdom!

How have our people remembered her? Mainly through her physiological activities. As Alexander Pushkin put it “and died, getting onto a [toilet] pan”. The Ukrainian people have called toilets in prisons after her [katerynki]. She was a grandiose symbol of dissolution. And that’s really not enough for immortalizing her name?  Now the post-communist slaves both in Simferopol and in Odessa now want to immortalize her in our hearts in Lenin’s place. Maybe they’re hoping to foist on the peoples of independent Ukraine some sense that serfdom is for ever?

Yevhen  Sverstyuk , prominent Ukrainian writer, philosopher and former political prisoner, was born on 13 December 1928 in the Volyn region.   He has written many books and numerous essays and articles on literature, psychology, philosophy, and religion, as well as translations from German, English and Russian. He is a laureate of the Shevchenko State Prise, and the International UNESCO Award. In Ukraine and in the West he has been known since the 1960s as a participant in the national liberation movement, and was one of the organizers of Ukrainian “samvydav” [samizdat].  He spent 12 years in the Soviet labour camps and in exile for his literary works, in particular for his book “Sobor u ryshtovanni” [“The cathedral under scaffolding”] (Paris, 1970).  He is presently editor of the National newspaper “Nasha Vira” [“Our Faith”], and is also the President of the Ukrainian PEN-Club, and a co-organizer of the civic organization “Hromadyanska pozitsiya” [“Civic Stand”]. 

Please see  for more details about Yevhen  Sverstyuk ’s life

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